Recently, I was asked to share with a group of Student Leaders at an outstanding community college in the State of Washington. I’m very excited about it for a number of reasons, 1) any chance i have to speak to such a motivated team of young people is exciting to me, 2) the team also collaborates with a prison in the area so I will speak to the prison’s ASB (Associated Student Body leaders) as well, 3) my daughter is part of the student leadership team.

As I prepared for this upcoming conversation, I asked my wife what she thought were the most pertinent issues we (the leaders and I) could share about at the event. We both agreed that speaking about helping young people find their niche and live a compelling life is a priority. In addition, I just read one of the most influential books I have seen in a while. It is “Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income,” by Paul Buchheit. This book is offered by educational publicists, Routledge and is part of their Critical Interventions Series.

It didn’t take more than reading the Introduction and Chapter 1 to realize this was a book of dire importance to all truly interested in social change that will alleviate poverty for the most vulnerable or what Buchheit would call “Disposable Americans.”

I believe it is critical for this generation to understand that there will be no meaningful social change without significant political and economic change. In a section on young adults, Buchheit makes this point, “Over one generation, from 1984 to 2009, the net worth of an American under 35 dropped from $11,521 to $3,662, in good part because of debt. In approximately the same time, the percentage of stay-at-home young adults rose from 11 percent to almost 24 percent.

“Just get a job at Apple? The company makes a $400,000 profit per employee while paying its retail specialists less than $30,000 per year.” (pg. 149)

In the first chapter, Buchheit has a segment called, “Some Numbers for the ‘Entitlement Bashers.’” It weighs the money involved in teacher’s salaries (a popular bashing point of the far right) and safety net programs versus tax avoidance and the economic costs of Investment Wealth—the amount our country invests in “Wealthfare”—which keep the extremely rich, rich. 

Here is a sampling from Buchheit’s research (pg. 13-14).

  • Teacher Salaries, $220 Billion
  • State and Local Pensions, $246 Billion
  • Safety Net Programs, $398 Billion
  • Social Security, $863 Billion

and under wealth fare

  • Tax Avoidance, $2,200 Billion
  • Investment Wealth, $5,000 Billion

Buchheit identifies we are moving (have moved) from a Labor Economy to a Financial Economy where wealth is tied to inheritance, investments and tax avoidance rather than work.

He further argues that taxes on the super-rich are justifiable because most of the high-tech, investment and pharmaceutical developments made by those companies (Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Turing Pharmaceuticals and others) are really developed from public investment that has been turned into private or corporate profit. 

The case for GAI (Guaranteed Annual Income, also known as UBI, Universal Basic Income) points out that with so few holding the income of so many, they have access to forming walls around their investments and power (the ability to buy congress—Republicans and Democrats, the Supreme Court and even the presidency).

Just look at these figures (pg. 131) under what Buchheit calls “Economic Terrorism.”

  • The 0.01 Percent Have as Much Wealth as 80 percent of America.
  • Americans with up to a Quarter-Million Dollars Are Part of a Group with Less Wealth Than the 0.01 Percent.
  • The 0.01 Percent Owns about as Much as 75 Percent of the Entire World.

I believe this kleptocracy-gone-crazy is especially pertinent for college-bound young Americans who wind up in substantial debt before they’ve even graduated with bleak job prospects or none-at-all. These prospects will not improve in an AI/Robot economy or the “contractor’s economy” (aka “Gig Economy,” “1099 Economy”), which the richest .01 percent leave like a bone from their feast upon which the vast remnants of the economy can gnaw.

The move is further exacerbated as the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos pursue the corporate takeover of education. Liberal education (or any education that leads to non-authoritarian open-mindset questioning) will be phased out in favor of a curriculum that adulates and reveres the corporate culture of capitalism without ethical, legal or moral guidelines.

The author has sections on Workers, Children, the Poor, African-Americans, Racism and Narcissism, the Sick and Retirees, Youth, Women and Soldiers.

In his closing chapter, “The Case for a Guaranteed Income,” Buchheit looks at experiments where Guaranteed Income was tried and dispels myths that Guaranteed Income leads to more money being spent on drugs and alcohol or more people staying home because they’re too lazy to get a job.

Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income

Paul Buchheit, (c) 2017, Taylor & Francis, Routledge, Critical Interventions Series




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